Dealing with invoice disputes is often a thankless task, both for the business in question and the customer. Accounting and customer service staff dread receiving calls from upset customers. And customers? By the time they place that call, they’re pretty frustrated with the whatever the business has (or hasn’t) done. It seems like a no-win situation.
However, businesses can do a great deal to avoid invoice disputes, and create a positive customer experience when the dispute occurs. Planning for invoice disputes upfront can lead to fewer disputes down the line - saving time, money, and precious customer relationships.
So what can businesses do to reduce the number of invoice disputes? The best way is to keep them from happening in the first place. Businesses do this by providing a clear communication framework prior to starting a relationship with a customer. Here are our top 5 tips on how to start off on the right foot:
Agree upon pricing and terms ahead of time.
Make sure the customer understands the price of the product and the terms of your relationship before you get started. It doesn’t matter if you’re a consultant working on a custom project or a manufacturer selling fixed-price widgets. You can easily provide a price by sending an estimate, and share any specific terms using a contract or sign-up page.
Get it in writing.
Sharing pricing and terms with customers upfront is great, but without verification, they might say they didn’t see your pricing or understand your terms. Avoid this issue by having them electronically sign the estimate, or accept terms on a sign-up page. You now have a record that they accepted the price and/or terms, giving them less wiggle room to claim a lack of knowledge in the future.
Make your business easy to identify on invoices.
Have you ever received an unidentifiable charge on your credit card statement? The name of the vendor may be completely unknown, or just a string of numbers and letters. Try as you might, you can’t remember the charge. So you spend time calling your credit card company, only to find it’s a valid charge for a company you are familiar with.
How frustrating is that scenario? The same goes for customers and invoices. If they receive an invoice with no identifiable signs of your company - business name, address, branding, etc. - they’re less likely to pay. Make it easy to pick out exactly who you are.
Document invoices with all the relevant details.
Just like it helps jog your customers’ memory with company identifiers, details on the invoice will help them remember their purchase. And here, the more details, the better. Include as much information on the invoice as you can, including an invoice number for tracking purposes, important dates and payment terms, products and services purchased, and other fees like taxes and shipping.
Related: Invoicing Guide - Creating Invoices
And if there’s any supporting documentation - estimates, contracts, etc. - attach them to the invoice for reference. That way customers have access to all the information related to the transaction.
Provide easy online access to invoices.
Mailing out invoices with all these details is both costly and time-consuming, and that’s not even counting the environmental impact. And if the invoice gets lost in the mail (or under a mountain of paperwork on your customer’s desk), it might be gone forever. And email isn’t much better, in that your customer can still lose the invoice - and spending time digging through email isn’t a likely prospect.
Instead of snail mail or email, use an online invoicing platform that offers a customer-facing portal. You can still send email notifications about upcoming invoices, with the convenience of having them stored in an easily-accessible online platform. Customers can pull up historical and current invoices, pay bills, and communicate with your staff through the platform.
Related: Customer Portal
Create clear communication now to avoid invoice disputes later.
Staying ahead of invoice disputes requires forethought and upfront work. That effort will pay off by saving you headaches (not to mention time and money) in the future.
Want to know how Invoiced can help your business reduce the likelihood of invoice disputes? Contact us for a demo to learn more.